Well-worn advice cautions that you should work “on your business, not in your business.” It sounds so good, so right, so inspirational, and so . . . useless.
What good are inspirational tips, after all, if you are held captive by the high-pressure and incessant demands of making your business go? Are there any tactics to actually help you achieve this sweet-sounding “on, not in” approach?
Yes, it’s a great idea to work on your business rather than in it, but if you lack a clear approach on how to achieve that goal, you’re sunk. And you’ll remain so. Even though you know that working on your business is essential, how do you actually do it?
What you need are clear methods for rising above the fray and focusing on the business. What you need is some solid advice on building your business instead of scampering around putting out fires. Get ready for five game-changing tactics.
1. You’re the manager, not the crisis manager.
The first shift is less tactical and more philosophical. But it’s important, nevertheless: You must begin with the right mindset.
Your most valuable role in the business is as its manager, not its technical supervisor. You hire people to do the work. That’s their job. It’s not your job anymore. Let me use a medical analogy. A doctor who works in the emergency room must work quickly. His or her job is to rapidly diagnose and treat conditions. So, you cannot expect an on-duty ER physician to perform a time-consuming spinal cord surgery.
Such a time-consuming and mentally demanding operation requires a doctor with the right mindset, not one consumed by the pressures of emergency care.
That’s you. You’re the spinal cord surgeon, not the ER doctor. You need to intentionally carve out time, create a protected environment and realize that your role is critical to the success and profitability of the company.
2. Shut your door, turn off the phone and close down your email.
Many managers, out of the generosity of their hearts, have an “open door policy.” That's all very nice, but this quality could sabotage your productivity. Mental efficiency experts say that it takes 23 minutes to recover from a distraction. At that rate of attrition, it’s no marvel that you can’t work on your business.
If you really want to work on your business, be the bad guy. Say it: “Don’t bother me.”
Can’t bring yourself to shut the door, ditch the phone and step away from email? Then find a time when you’re unlikely to be distracted. If your employees aren’t showing up until 8:30 a.m., try getting into the office at 5:30 a.m. You’ll get fewer emails, field fewer problems and get fewer “quick questions” early in the morning.
3. Delegate just one of your responsibilities.
Delegation is one of those things that is easy to talk about and insanely hard to execute.
Start with baby steps. Choose a single task and pass it along to someone else. Here are some great delegation ideas:
- Your morning commute. Uber works.
- Your social media. Someone else can do it better than you can.
- Your email. No, not all of it, obviously. But hiring someone to delete the trash, deal with the non-essentials and perform perfunctory inbox maintenance can free up tons of time.
- Your blogging. If you’re a committed content marketer, you’re doing a lot of writing. I do a lot of writing, too, but my proofreaders, editors and assistants get major props for making that happen.
- Your mundane management tasks. Some parts of being a manager are routine, boring and non-critical for you to be involved in. If you’re still knee-deep in invoicing, payroll, P&Ls and other tasks, get some help.
Once you’ve delegated at least one task, devote the time you’ve gained exclusively to working on your business.
4. Plan a personal business retreat.
You’ve taken vacations before, right? And chances are, you pay lip service to the importance of taking time off, unplugging, not burning out, yada yada yada. But have you ever taken a business vacation? Let me explain.
Just as it’s personally essential to take time off from your job, it is equally crucial to take time off for your job. It looks almost like the same thing -- you leave the office and seek out a destination. But what you do during that retreat is vastly different. Instead of hopping on a jet ski, playing beach volleyball or lying in the sun, you work on your business.
This retreat is exclusively for you and your business. No catching up on email. No quick blog posts. None of that. It’s high-level business -- the best kind possible.
5. Go to a conference.
Honestly, I don’t care what conference you attend. Just go. Why? A conference is kind of like a retreat. You’re out of the regular grind, away from the fires and semi-detached from your email.
A conference gives your brain a chance to fire different neurons and explore different connections. You may also hear some solid advice, meet some interesting people and pick up some useless swag, but those aren’t the best outcomes of a conference.
The best outcomes happen because your mind is able to focus on things other than the day-to-day routine. When you attend a conference, do so with the mentality that you are going to plan one thing that will change your business -- a new strategy, system, approach, market, hire, maneuver or acquisition, whatever.
Plan on it, and it will happen.
Now that you’ve carved out work on your business' time, you’ll be sorely tempted to fritter away these moments on petty fire-dousing again. Stop it.
This is your time. The crises can wait. The email can pause. The questions can be held at bay. It’s time for you to take your business to the next level through solid strategy, committed effort and focused attention. Finally, you’re working on your business.
What practical ways do you take time to work on issues not in your business?